Charles J. Stewart
I’ve been in communication recently with Donna Stewart Prato, whose uncle, Charles Stewart, was a POW in P.G. 59.
She wrote, “My cousin, Charles Stewart Jr, and I are researching my uncle’s army days.
“Charles J. Stewart [ASN 6973874] served in North Africa with Co. A, 15th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division.
“We did not know any of my uncle’s army experience, especially that he was a POW. My father, Charles Sr, and their other brother took their information to their graves.”
Charles escaped from Camp 59 with Anthony Proto.
(See “American Escapers from P.G. 59,” Greg Bradsher’s “Stories of American Escapers from Prisoner of War Camp 59, Servigliano.”)
Greg explains, Private Anthony N. Proto, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, was captured near Tunis on December 23, 1942, when his unit was cut off without ammunition.
Charlie, like Anthony Proto, was captured near Tunis the same day, his unit also having been cut off without access to ammunition.
Italian POW records held at the National Archives indicate Charlie was held in P.G. 98 on Sicily beginning December 28, and from there he was transferred to P.G. 59, arriving on February 6, 1943.
During the September 14, 1943 breakout from the camp, Charlie and Anthony escaped over the wall.
“Walking south they reached a small town near Ascoli on September 17,” Greg writes, “where they were hidden and fed by the inhabitants who also dyed their uniforms and told them that there was a partisan band on Monte Fiore just south of Ascoli. Proto and Stewart joined this band on September 25, but left again about five days later when German troops moved into Ascoli and the partisans disbanded.
“Three or four nights later they contacted an American parachutist [undoubtedly an Office of Strategic Services member of the SIMCOL operation undertaken by the Allies in October during the dark moon periods to assist escapers’ return to the Allied lines] who had been dropped behind the lines to assist escapers. He told them of a scheme for evacuating them by boat from the coast near Giulianova so they set off in that direction and reached the coast on October 6. Here they found about 60 other escapers waiting for evacuation. A large number of these were evacuated two days later, but there was no room for Proto and Stewart.
“They stayed in the neighborhood and after a few days Proto, who could speak Italian, persuaded an Italian fisherman to take them and three other escapers to the Allied lines in his boat. The 13 hour journey was accomplished without event, and Proto and his companions reached Termoli (which had been liberated on October 3) on October 16.”
Charlie’s army records are believed to have been destroyed in the 1973 National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) Fire in St. Louis, Missouri.
After his return from Italy, Charlie was sent to the Pacific with the army’s Alamo Scouts.
Donna put me in touch with Lance Zedric, historian for the Alamo Scouts Historical Foundation.
“Charlie volunteered to go to the Pacific,” Lance explained, “where he joined the Alamo Scouts and became an operational Scout. I learned of this account through a letter he wrote while in the military in April 1946. Unfortunately, Charlie died in July 1989, and I never got to meet him.
“I will be writing a feature about Stewart in the fall issue of our RECON magazine.”
The Alamo Scouts Historical Foundation, Inc. website provides this overview of the Alamo Scouts:
“…approximately 500 men attended one of the nine Alamo Scouts Training Centers (ASTC), from which approximately 325 men (250 enlisted and 75 officers) graduated and received diplomas. Of these men, only 138 were retained by the Alamo Scouts and only 126 actually went on an operational mission against the enemy. Those who graduated but were not retained, returned to their former units and performed similar scouting activities. Those who did not graduate from the ASTC were returned to their parent units.”
On the site, Charlie listed with the Derr Team:
George A Derr, Robert D. Hamlin, Tommy J. Kolas, Stewart J. Minzer, Charles J. Stewart, William E. Teague
Derr Team Missions:
Bontoc, Luzon, 2–11 Jun 1945
Banaue, Luzon, 21–30 Jun 1945
Bontoc, Luzon, 1 Jul–5 Aug 1945
Luzon to Wakayama, Japan, 14–25 Sep 1945 (Krueger Escort)
Lance writes, “Charlie was only a private when he returned from Italy. He was a sergeant E-5 at the time he left the Scouts in July/August 1945. Given the size of the chevrons in the photo [above], this likely would have been taken in 1946/47 upon his re-enlistment and before the smaller army chevrons came out in 1948.”
In the photo, Charlie wears the U.S. Army Combat Infantry Badge above the service stripes on his chest.
Criteria for the badge, according to usamilitarymedals.com, is defined:
“The Combat Infantry Badge (CIB) is awarded to Army enlisted infantry, infantry or special forces officers in the grade of Colonel or below, as well as warrant officers with an infantry or special forces MOS…. The CIB and the Expert Infantry Badge were created primarily as a means of recognizing the sacrifices of the infantrymen who were disproportionately likely to be killed or wounded during World War II.”